Idaho has a way for potential new hunters to dip their toes into the sport prior to committing time and energy to a hunter education program.
Those who are 8 and older and have never held a hunting license in Idaho or any other state or country can now obtain a hunting passport for just $1.75. The document, similar to a license, allows people to hunt with a license-holding mentor for up to one calendar year prior to taking a hunter education class and purchasing a standard license.
The program was created in 2011 by legislation backed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and its governing commission, and is viewed as a way to recruit new people to hunting, especially those who might be curious about it but are unsure if it is for them.
“It is trying to create multiple pathways to hunter recruitment,” said Sharon Kiefer, deputy director of the department at Boise. “We value hunter education but we recognize sometimes it’s that spark from family or friends, that experience with them, that can really make the difference.”
The program allows those 8 and older to hunt with a mentor. Anyone 18 or older who holds a resident or nonresident Idaho hunting license can serve as a mentor. No certification is required but people may not mentor more than two people at the same time.
Those being mentored must obey all hunting rules and regulations. For example, they must purchase tags when applicable and obey weapon restrictions and bag limits. Children younger than 10 can only hunt certain small-game species like upland birds. Those who are 10 and 11 can also hunt turkeys and sandhill cranes and those 12 and older can hunt big game species.
The program was designed as a way to get kids interested in hunting before they might be distracted by other activities like youth sports or video games. But Kiefer said it isn’t limited to children. The growing interest of many people to consume only locally sourced food is attracting new hunters across the country and the hunting passport can help continue the trend. Kiefer said several other states have similar programs.
“It’s kind of timely,” Kiefer said. “We have some folks who are kind of excited about doing some outreach to some of the university natural resource programs. The program has its genesis in youth requirements but you will see with many of the states, it’s definitely not a program that is limited only to youth.”
The program is not a way to permanently get around the state’s hunter education requirement. Those who try hunting and like it, must eventually fulfill hunter ed requirements to continue to participate.
“We are not abandoning hunter education,” Kiefer said. “That is still a requirement to lifelong hunting license purchasing. This is just creating a first-step pathway trying to get people excited.”
Passports operate on a calendar year. Once the year is up, those who want to continue hunting must purchase a license and fulfill the education requirement.